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Oct 14, 2019

Statement by Viktor Orbán before his talks with President of France Emmanuel Macron

11 October 2019, Paris

Your Excellency,

Thank you very much for inviting me. Hungarians like to come to Paris in the autumn. I would like to tell the journalists here that a line from one of the most famous Hungarian poems – a line that every teenage schoolchild knows – is “Autumn slipped into Paris”. It is an honour to receive an invitation to Paris in the autumn. 

The President has said what subjects we will be discussing – obviously power, leadership and European politics. But I was brought here at least as much by a sense of intellectual interest. Although there are many things on which we disagree with him, in Hungary we have great respect for the President of France, because he is a leader who has restored to European politics the intellectual force of debates on visions of the future. This is something that we greatly appreciate. We hope that Europe can regain its strength of vision, and that in addition to specific issues we can talk to each other about the future: the future in a wider perspective. Today I would rather speak with the President about matters on which we agree; because France and Hungary would both like a successful and economically strong Europe. In Europe there are various countries and various regions, and the eastern half differs from the western half; but we need unity and cooperation, and I believe that we will find the path towards this. 

Security is a prominent issue, and I feel that on this the French and Central European viewpoints are close to each other. The views that they have regarding the importance of border defence are close to each other, and they are close to each other on the subject of a joint European military capability. And if I have enough time today, I will try to explain to the President why the Hungarian standpoint on the migration issue is so different from that of France. Hungary’s civilisational traditions are different and the language is different. Therefore, through mechanisms for solidarity, we can contribute in a way which is different from that of France; but we are capable of this, and we stand ready to do so. 

All I would like to say about Franco-Hungarian relations is that your country, Your Excellency, is the fourth largest investor in Hungary, and our economic relations are excellent: 670 French companies operate in Hungary, providing jobs for 40,000 people. We greatly appreciate this, and I hope that French investors will continue their activities in Hungary. 

I am expecting that we will speak at length on the subject of enlargement, because this the core element of the European vision. With His Excellency we will be discussing the fact that although the issue of enlargement always raises many questions, questions of detail and problems, at the end of the day the overriding consideration is security. I say this as the leader of a country which is the southern gateway to Europe, to the European Union. As such, I am well aware that we can increase Europe’s security by moving this gateway down, further to the South, and by finding the form and means for enlargement with which we can strengthen the security of the whole of Europe. So in our talks with His Excellency we will argue in favour of finding the appropriate schedule and methods for this. 

Naturally we will also talk about climate change. Mr. President, Hungary is a climate champion: in terms of our performance in limiting carbon emissions, we are in the top third of European countries. We stand ready to continue our efforts in this area, but we want to find the balance and harmony between competitiveness and fighting climate change, climate protection. 

To sum up, I am going into these talks today full of hope. I would like to repeat that it is an honour for me to be here. President Chirac’s name has been mentioned. I would also like to mention the name of Giscard d’Estaing. He belonged to that generation, and in 1998, the year I won my first election, former president Giscard d’Estaing came to Hungary in person to campaign on my behalf. So I have always had the highest regard and respect for the great figures of French politics, from whom I have personally learnt a great deal, and who have always been friends of Hungary.

Thank you very much.